If you’re an SEO, you’ll certainly be aware of the power of links and how having high authority, relevant links pointing to your site can skyrocket your rankings. But what about 2nd and 3rd tier links? How important are they and is it possible to have any control over them?

That’s what we’ll be discussing in episode 14 of “Old Guard vs New Blood” when Dixon Jones will be joined by Max Brockbank from The Media Image, Gerry White from Rise At Seven and Amel Mehenaoui from Puffy.

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Transcript

Dixon Jones

Hello everyone and welcome to the Old Guard vs New Blood episode 14. And shout out to Majestic. This episode is about whether tier two, tier three, and tier four links can affect your web presence, can affect your brand, and if so, how do they affect your brand. The title is How Useful Are Second and Third Tier Links to Your SEO Success.

The whole event is being sponsored of course as usual by Majestic. We’ve got some great speakers here. Amel has had to sort of cut off, and hopefully she’ll be back again in a second, but in the meantime, we’ve got a couple of people. Gerry and Max, why don’t you introduce yourselves. Gerry, why don’t you go first?

Gerry White

Okay. For sure. I’m Gerry White. I’m the SEO Director for Rise at Seven. I’ve been there for the past year or most of the day. Before that I was the Technical SEO lead for Just Eat, the takeaway company across … I should know how many countries it is, but it’s like about 12 to 14 different countries, different markets. Before that been agency site, client site, spent a bit of time at the BBC working for the government. I’m trying what else I’ve done, but yeah, I would like to say I’m new blood, but I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years, so probably can’t get away with that one anymore.

Dixon Jones

Nah, you’re still new blood to me mate, new blood to me. Well, my 20 years in the industry it’s about the same to me, so there we go. Max, how long have you been in the industry?

Max Brockbank

Oh, it depends which industry you’re talking about. Chariot making, quite a way back. But no. I started off as a journalist more time ago than I care to remember, spent round about a decade and a half rising through the ranks, be a sub editor on the regional press, moved towards the national press, did some work on The Sun and the Telegraph, eventually ended up running Time magazine’s European website. And after sort of seven years working for Time, I was less of an online journalist and more of an SEO guy. It was how can we beat Newsweek to the stories this time around.

So then moved into SEO full-time, various claims to fame. I ran SEO at Hilton, Hilton hotels for two or three years, and I now work as head of SEO at The Media Image, TMI, too much information, and we have a wide range of clients. So yes, that’s me.

Dixon Jones

Fantastic. Okay. So Amel, hopefully will come on, and we’ll get her to introduce herself if she does come in. Just while you’re there, you might have seen David, my producer. David, do you want to say hi, just so people can see you, and if there’s anything I’ve missed that’s really, really important given that I jumped in and did my usual job of forgetting everything I was supposed to say.

David Bain

No, absolutely. Yeah. Hi everyone, and obviously we’re going to be having a great discussion today. We were due to have one more guest, Amel. She might be joining us. She may not be able to actually log in. But we’ll have a great discussion anyway. We’re also going to be having the next episode in the seventh of April. So I’ll tell you a little bit about that towards the end of the episode.

Dixon Jones

That’s great. Okay, so before we start the panel proper, I would like to invite the audience to type in questions. This vid, if you’re watching it live of course, this video and podcast is being streamed live on Facebook and YouTube at the time it’s being recorded. So if you’re lucky enough to be there, then please, please, type something in, let us know you’re here. Any talk in the chat may be displayed on the screen, so bear that in mind. And hello doc. How are you? Good to see you. Sorry, I’m not going to be able to get to Mexico this year, but that’s COVID for you.

Okay, let’s move on then. Question one. Before I just dive in, what I did want to do … This is sponsored by Majestic, and I don’t usually do this. I don’t usually jump in and start showing people sort of Majestic stuff, but because we’re talking about tier two and tier three links, what I wanted to just do is show people if I may this tool here … that Majestic had, not just direct links but the links that link to links that link to links up to four tiers away. So I’m just refreshing the screen there to bring it in. I’m actually bringing it in from majestic.com, just takes a couple of seconds. I’ll zoom in here.

And it looks a bit busy, but in real life you can start clicking around it quite well, and you can start click on links and start seeing where the links are, and you can start seeing whether a link goes to or from a different place. You can grab a little network if you see of links, you see a little public network of links. You can sort of drag around them and it’ll bring those links in and you can have a look at those separately. It shows you the directions of the links and the Trust Flow and Citation Flow.

So if you haven’t seen that tool and you are a Majestic user, go and have a look at it. It’s a link graph. It’s free to use on any paid account. And I don’t think there’s any other system in the world that can instantly, I’ll say instantly, within a couple of seconds suddenly show you links that are up to two, three, I think up to three tiers away, and I think it goes up to four links away actually and drill down quite so quickly. So before I get too much into fighting with my computer on two screens and stuff, David, take my screen away and we’ll move back to the main system. But do test it out.

Of course, that precludes with the hopes that the question of whether tier two or tier three links might affect your brand is something that our panelists agree with, and that’s a big maybe of course. Amel, are you able to hear us? You can hear us but unfortunately we can’t hear you. Okay.

Amel Mehenaoui

Hey.

Dixon Jones

Oh, we hear you now. Why don’t just tell us who you are and where you come from and where you are in the world?

Amel Mehenaoui

Yeah. Hi everybody. I had some technical issues, so that’s why I joined so late. Okay, my name is Amel. I’ve been doing SEO for about 15 years now. Originally, I’m from Montreal, Canada, and I actually moved to Dubai about a year and so ago. So yeah.

Dixon Jones

Okay, brilliant. Okay, and I’m sorry, if I ask you scary questions because you missed a little bit of the preclude, please just throw them back at me and I’ll do my best.

But the first thing I wanted to do was just explain to the guests that there are … the audience that there’s different ways in which we can imagine the concept of tier two, tier three links, and it’s a valid point. When we were signing up, Gerry made the very important question to me saying, “When you say tier two or tier three links, do you mean page A links to page B links to page C, or do you mean good links, medium links, and really dodgy links?” And we can come on to that second category in time as well. But what we’re really talking about here is when page A links to page B and page B is linking to you, can page A affect your world.

So I was going to throw that out to you, Max and Gerry, and see if there’s any one situation where you can think of, where you can pinpoint something affecting your world in the past that wasn’t a direct link but it had an impact. I’ll throw that at Max first, if that’s all right?

Max Brockbank

Yeah, well, about 10 years ago, we were doing something called the Lazarus effect, bringing stuff back from the dead. You’d locate a really good page or what would be a really good page but wasn’t getting much traction. Perhaps it was very old. And we would be building links to that page to try to rejuvenate it, and then that would rejuvenate the link back to the site. So you brought the link back from the dead. That was sort of 10 years ago.

I think personally the links that we’re building presently are of such value that tiers don’t work quite so well. I think the real basis for a tier-based link building system is really to take links which aren’t brilliant and turn them into better ones. So you’re using your tier three links to improve your tier two and your tier two to improve your tier one.

The problem you always have to be careful of though is the quality as it goes down the funnel. So your tier two links shouldn’t be that bad either, and your tier three links shouldn’t be that bad either, because if you’re building tons of tier three links which are completely spammy to a tier two link, you’re going to burn that link completely. That will disappear. It ceases to be of any use. You need to have enough quality further down the system for it to feed up. So it’s not just a question of chucking tons of bad links at something.

Dixon Jones

Okay. I know Gerry’s got an example of that that we’ll come on to a little bit later, but before we do, Gerry, have you got an example of where an indirect link shall we call it has affected your world?

Gerry White

Not quite. I was trying to think of some examples where I’ve seen some similar bits and pieces, and in the past we often would sort of say, “We’ve got a link from x or y or whatever. Can we get some more links to that one?” But I couldn’t think of any really good examples.

But what I was thinking about was the times where we’ve seen a link coming in from a particular place like, and we’re proud of the link and we share it everywhere on social. Sometimes you can even sponsor it and get more links. I mean, we’re probably not talking about social as kind of links in this context, but when you can get more traffic going into it and it’s shared, you can see that the link coming into us going more viral, I think the social sort of tiered links is absolutely valid in that context.

One of the things that we used to find out was the fact that we’d get a link from a great source, but it wouldn’t be indexed. And a secret hack that used to be a few years back, maybe not so much anymore, but as soon as you tweeted it, it would get indexed. And that was when Google had a good relationship with Twitter and they seemed to be buying the data connection almost. There was like a, they didn’t index Twitter. They kind of bought it straight from the firehouse. I think they’re doing that again now actually from what I’ve seen, but that was something that was kind of really, really kind of a useful hack basically. You tweet a link to get it indexed immediately.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. Yeah. No, I think coming back to link to social is something that’s sensible to do as well because I think that it is a valid case for a tier two link really, the social link I think. Amel, have you got any ideas of where you’ve found sort of second tier links having an effect in your world?

Amel Mehenaoui

Well, actually the example that Gerry was talking about like having to … the fact that you tweet a link actually helps you index it really fast, it’s something that I have really good experience with, and it’s … again, it’s really about quality of the links and making sure that it’s coming from an authority domain. So making sure that there are websites that are really known and loved by Google. I guess that’s like the most important thing, and links that actually they have good effects, usually links from Medium blog it’s something that they really give a good quality link since they have good authority domain. Yeah, so that’s kind of the links that I feel that they helped with my experience so far.

Dixon Jones

So let me follow that through a little bit and say, well, sort of links to social because of course where the social link is, is going to make a difference, because yes, Google can crawl and see Twitter’s feed basically but not Facebook’s feed. So does that mean that you, SEOs ignore Facebook and shouldn’t bother getting even munching themselves at Facebook, or is it just … does it end up manifesting itself in a different way, in a more sort of social way, if you link from a Facebook post basically? Google’s not going to see that, are they?

Gerry White

So one of the most embarrassing facts of the day is the fact that when a company that I used to work for started working with KFC, the link that all of the journalists found and shared to kind of talk about the fact that now this particular brand was now working with KFC had UTM tracking codes on it. And the embarrassing thing here of course is the fact that with UTM tracking codes, that overrides Google Analytics. So suddenly we thought we were getting absolutely tons and tons and tons of traffic from Facebook when it turned out that quite quickly a bit of analysis was like, nope, this isn’t actually coming from Facebook. I mean using UTM you can kind of track that back to actually find out where it really, really does come from, but that was something which you can’t do retrospectively.

So to cut to the short, yes, we got actually tons and tons of links, not because of second tier links but because of the fact that somebody found a link on Facebook, then used that link when they were talking about it socially somewhere else. The real reality is that not everybody’s going to link to you because you reach out to them, you send a press release. Sometimes they link to you organically, and they’ll use the link that they found either from a newsletter or from a social post from anywhere that you want to. So organic linking often has weird tracking parameters, and trying to tell everybody, please, remove your tracking parameters when you link to us naturally is not something that actually works with-

Dixon Jones

Not so natural if they’ve got to manipulate the link, yeah, yeah. It does make a mockery of UTM tracking codes I suppose that kind of issue, because people do cut and paste links, don’t they, and they’re going to complain the tracking code.

Okay. If anyone wants to jump in, then by all means do. We just had a question pop up there from Bola, if we can find that again, Bolaplay, recently … It was related so I thought I’d bring it in now. Recently it’s difficult to put naked links on Facebook. Many use short URLs like bit.ly, but is it effective passing the link juice? There’s a couple of things I’d say on that. I’ll let someone else jump in first. Max, do you want to jump in on that?

Max Brockbank

Yeah, I mean the URL shorteners, the issue has always been that any sort of redirection, even if it’s a good redirection it’s always going to reduce some of the power of that link. I’m against using link shortening to move links on. I’d far rather have the full link itself with all those lovely keywords in it. But yeah, URL shorteners, it’s difficult to get a handle on what the full facts are because obviously Google don’t give that much of a lead on it. But yeah, I would say not.

Dixon Jones

Amel, got any thoughts on that? Okay, Gerry.

Gerry White

From what we’ve seen, Google’s definitely following them. And the reason why is we’ve seen the results basically with UTM tracking parameters and things like that have got indexed when your website hasn’t been … I’ve been obsessed with UTM tracking parameters, I know. Basically it’s, we’ve seen it basically be an index. So Google’s definitely following them.

And I did check out a few times if there was like a robot’s txt file on them or anything like that or anything else that would stop it from crawling it. Google’s definitely crawling them, but as you say Max, they are actually reducing the effectiveness because it’s kind of another redirect and all the rest of it. I mean, Google have said that there’s no drop in value going five, three, or ones. Doesn’t mean I always believe everything they say completely, but it does mean that I sort of assume that using a redirect transition is a good thing if there isn’t a better solution. So like Max, I like them naked.

Dixon Jones

Yeah.

Amel Mehenaoui

One thing you could do with actually this, the bit.ly example here, you can actually customize the link and add a keyword to that link, so it will be bit.ly/ then you have your keyword, so at least it can help in a way the link that you’re pointing to.

Dixon Jones

I have a little hack myself that … I mean, I use URL shortener but I use my own. I use an open source script. You can do it if you’re lucky enough to have cPanel with Softaculous, whatever. I use a thing called YOURLS which I put onto a system, and I’ve got a .ms domain name that’s two, so basically two-letter domain name with a two-letter tld. And then I get to choose everything myself. My URL shortener can have words, keywords that I want to put in there.

And what I like over using something like bit.ly is that I own that link, I own the URL. So it’s never going to get taken away from me. It probably will because my system will crash because it’s a dodgy two-bit server that it’s on, but at least in that case I’ve got that and I can, I think I can control whether it’s a 301 or a 302 or whatever. I could add … It means I can effectively add affiliate links … affiliate tracking if I wanted to or UTM tracking for that matter and hide it into the URL that people see. So I find that quite useful.

But to Bolaplays’s point though, I think that the larger thing on Facebook and certainly LinkedIn and actually they’re all using their own shorteners on top of that as well. So there’s another wrapper around all that anyway. So whether Google takes your URL shortener, there may be two or three more redirects just in that link now. And no doubt, Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook are extracting plenty of information of the user that’s clicking down those links at that particular time. So I think that …

And the other thing about Facebook of course is that Google’s not actually going to crawl those links directly. They’re not likely to see any of those links directly, because Google’s not allowed to log in and see your friends on Facebook, which isn’t the case in Twitter of course.

Okay, so let’s dive back. Max, you said of an example of backing up a tier two link and linking two and tier two link to bring it back to life, the Lazarus effect. Gerry, you were talking about an example before we came on air which I think might be interesting to people of where that can go wrong.

Gerry White

Yeah, absolutely. So about the first week that I started at the BBC, they actually got a warning, a penalty warning, that notice which basically says you’ve been doing things that are a bit unnatural. Now this was the BBC. They’ve got so many links. They’re not out there buying links. They’re not doing anything dodgy. But it was one of those things where we looked at it, and actually, I mean quite famously, there was a guy who basically tweeted it into a forum, so you can find all the details of it.

And what it turned out to be was where somebody had got a link coming from the BBC. Of course, they thought, “Wow, this is brilliant. We’ve got a link from the BBC.” So they put it out on all the PR press releases, they put it out on as much as they could. They basically promoted it, like anybody does. When you have something that’s a good story about you, your brand on the BBC, you’re going to promote it. And as a result, the BBC actually got like a link warning penalty as a direct result of that, which is fine.

Dixon Jones

Can I just ask Gerry because it’s okay if it was. It wasn’t the one that I got in 1999 on a Christmas site to my agency when I was running my agency back then, was it?

Gerry White

Don’t think it was that one, no.

Dixon Jones

Okay. All right, because I still link to that to this day.

Okay, so tier two linking, manipulating links to a tier two link can be bad but it can be good. I think there’s another way of looking at a tier two link as in terms of the humans and the human effect really. The fact that you don’t get a link from, I don’t know, from site B, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t get some kind of benefit because site A, the one that is linking to you is getting well talked about on site B, so the story gets picked up. So your story gets picked up say by a small blogger, and then somebody talks about that as if it’s the original story. You’re still getting the benefit of the story with the secondary link. So it doesn’t necessarily have to all be about SEO.

And I think I find that always an important thing to talk about just to satisfy any googlers that are listening in, to say are we just trying to manipulate the SEO graph. If we can find a way to argue it another way, then they all seem quite … a lot happier about that. I don’t know. What do you think about that? I don’t mind if people talk about my stories and link to a different source that’s more authoritative than me as long as I get the link at the end. Anyone want to jump in on that thought?

Gerry White

Yeah, we’re [crosstalk]

Max Brockbank

No, carry on, carry on.

Gerry White

No, I was going to say basically whenever we get a great story in LADbible, LADbible gets all the links, not us, and it’s really annoying. Basically LADbible’s everywhere. They get all the traffic, they get everything. Yeah, we get some links and we get coverage, but everyone links to LADbible, shared the LADbible version of it, not our client’s version of it. It’s not frustrating. We like it. In fact, we tweet it out and share it ourselves of course, so.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, you might get frustrated because you’ve got big clients though. When Majestic does something, we’re very happy with Barry Schwartz talking about it or Search Engine Land talking about it or Search Engine Journal talking about it because they carry more weight than us talking, blowing our own trumpet.

So I would rather somebody with more weight talk about the innovation as long as we’re talking about an innovation or something useful about the business, that’s a better place to be for us. So in many ways the second tier links, the people linking to the Search Engine Journal article is great as far as I’m concerned because I’ll get the benefits of the brand association as well as the benefits of the link.

Gerry White

Yeah.

Amel Mehenaoui

It becomes an authority by association, just because you’re mentioned in that big authority site or brand.

Dixon Jones

Absolutely. Can’t see you Amel. You’ve come off the screen. I’m sure that’s me doing that, but … Max, did you have anything on there?

Max Brockbank

Yeah, I mean there was … I spoke to the guy that used to run the Telegraph, and they were immensely proud of the fact that they would appear in the Google News results for stories that were broken by other outlets. And part of the reason that they would appear for other people’s stories was a) they were the Telegraph, and hey, they were a big noise, but equally they used to rewrite the story slightly to add in more topical references.

This was a technique we used to use on print newspapers when we were doing a sort of a reader’s rights column. We would drop in the names of soap stars who had had either a storyline similar to what the people were talking about or personally they’d done that.

So I suppose it’s going towards more content algorithms these days of trying to get more interest into a story. And to a certain extent, that’s the same thing with a tiered linking system in that you are drawing in a wider range of searches to go to individual sites, so you’re boosting the individual value of those sites and so on and so forth.

Amel Mehenaoui

It’s same principle if you actually publish a press release and then your press release is picked up by other news sites. It’s going to be published on the other site and linking to that press release and the press release is actually linking to you. So it’s in a way it’s about … at the same time it’s about brand awareness. We’re thinking always about backlinking, but at the same time we have some mentions and some brand awareness with that.

Max Brockbank

Ultimately we need link profiles to be as natural as possible. An unnatural link profile would be to have a website just linked to by some isolated other websites and not linking to anything else. So in order to make that whole, and I hesitate to use the network because it sounds a bit like a private blog network but to that-

Dixon Jones

Ecosystem.

Max Brockbank

That ecosystem, yeah, you need to have links from other sites to those. Sites shouldn’t appear in isolation. They should be talking to other websites. And there is this principle of CheiRank which was brought in a few years back. Don’t ever look up CheiRank on the Wikipedia page because it’s hilarious. But CheiRank is the principle that you get value for linking out to other sites. It’s sort of page rank in reverse. Whereas page rank is the quality and a number of links into a page, CheiRank is the quality and number of links out from a page. So when you’re building a natural link profile for any website, it shouldn’t all just be one way, and it should be part of as you say a wider ecosystem.

Gerry White

It is amazing how many tools have penalized websites because … sorry, not penalized websites, but it sort of said that these links are bad because they don’t come from the same country or they don’t come from the same industry or something like that. Looking at these backlink profiles, a lot of the time they’re completely natural. They’re just popular in forums. They’re just popular in another country or something. And I do find it kind of strange how often a tool will say that a backlink is unnatural because it looks slightly different to mainstream media or something like that. And it is something which I find quite very interesting actually. How do you qualify a bad backlink in that way?

Max Brockbank

Yeah.

Gerry White

A great example was the fact that the Premier Inn, when I was having a look at their website, they got a ton of backlinks from a lot of car magazines because of the … sorry, car forums, because they were actually the meeting places for car rallies and bits and pieces like that. But it was off topic. It didn’t look quite right. A lot of them were from countries that weren’t actually the same countries they were appearing in. So it was just a bit of a strange one because they were talking about them as like the meeting places and things like that. So it is bizarre how often we kind of consider backlinks off topic to be bad when actually it’s just the way in which the natural web works.

Dixon Jones

Amel, did you want to jump in there?

Amel Mehenaoui

Oh, no, I find it really very interesting actually.

Dixon Jones

I agree. I think there’s … Separately from Majestic, I’m doing a case study now on … a link building case study, and I was analyzing the best links to a new startup. And the interesting thing was that one of the best links seemed to be a totally spam. I couldn’t understand it. It’s from a guy called Arnold IT and it sort of was linking to the site and it was talking about the site and it was explaining my article. But it just, it had no ads on it, it had no … I couldn’t understand the reason for it being there. And since it was about deep stories, about the links, I went to try. If you want to hear about it, it’s on Brighton SEO, I’m talking about it on Brighton SEO.

So I went to go find the guy that wrote it and to try and track it down, why on earth did that end up there, because it looked like it was something out of the 1970s or sort of 1990s anyway. And indeed, it was out the 1990s. There was a WordPress blog somewhere in there, but basically the guy used to be CMO of Ziff Davis or CEO of Ziff Davis or some huge organization. He’s now 77 and just writes a newsletter every now and then. So he employs somebody to do the writing and gathering the stories and things, so he’s got the data to hand in RSS feeds for himself when he needs it. But he’s been an authority all through the years and has remained an authority in the system. So it’s funny where these things come from. They’re not necessarily front of mind, but it was an authoritative link. Just didn’t look it on the page.

Okay, let me go on to another question. Do you think … Well, I guess, you might have sort of answered this really. Do you think the second and third tier links can have a negative effect? I mean can they penalize you? The problem with that, I mean, you’ve just said that the BBC got a penalty. I’m sure they didn’t really react very biggly to the penalty … big to the penalty and it was just that page really and it was just an algorithm doing its thing at Google. But nevertheless, we do hear a lot about negative SEO. And as soon as a link network gets penalized, it suddenly has a second value penalizing the competition, and they just 301 all through to the competition. Is that a very real thing or is that scare mongering by the PBNs or what do you think? Who wants to jump in with that? Amel?

Amel Mehenaoui

Well, we all … I think we all know that PBN is something to avoid. But yes. I mean, do they affect your SEO? Yes, they can, but it could be harmful to you. Obviously, there are some metrics that we need to look at when we’re analyzing our backlinks from tier two or tier threes and all that.

I think the main thing to avoid is having all these backlinks coming from site who are sharing the same, we what we call C Block IP, so they’re really part of the same private blog network and they are really built to actually manipulate the system, the algorithm. We obviously we want to protect the brand, we want to protect the site. So we need to take action and avoid those type of backlinks.

Dixon Jones

Gerry? You’re disagreeing?

Gerry White

I’m not going to argue with you, but I mean we work on probably huge, big brands. The links that we get for them have to be authoritative, they have to be high quality, they have to be great. But I’ve seen friends of mine who are making silly amounts of money from churn and burn type of tactics, and it works. They do use public … Sorry, PBNs, private blog networks. They use kind of these techniques which shouldn’t work. They’re the old school stuff and it’s like that, and they are very aware that if they do it for a year, they’re lucky, they do it for six months, they’ve still made a ton of money and everything’s like that. These black hat techniques, they still work. They don’t sort of like always backfire so quickly.

So us saying we should avoid PBNs I think it really depends on, one, if you know and understand that kind of market you’re in, and two, if you’re kind of doing it on a short-term basis. Don’t get me wrong. I would never recommend it for any of my current clients, and I will actively check all of their backlink profiles because we’ve even seen them in the historical backlink profiles of our clients where they did it earlier on and this is the sort of thing which can catch up with you. And now they’ve got huge brands, it is something which they’ve got to be conscious of. But if you’re wanting to kind of make a bit of money fast and you’ve got like a little affiliate site that sends traffic to Amazon, a PBN might actually be the best approach.

Amel Mehenaoui

That’s the thing Gerry, the thing is they do work. That’s the risk. That’s the risk that some maybe websites are willing to take. But is it worth it if, depending if you’re building a brand and a real business, is it worth it long-term? Because yes, we’re not saying they don’t work. Actually, yes, unfortunately they do work, and that’s why, like you’re saying, black hat SEO techniques are using them. But long-term for a brand it’s not safe to go and use those type of backlinks. And let’s be truthful too. We are all paranoid about the Google algorithm. We don’t want to be paralyzed. So that’s something else to think about.

Gerry White

No, I think you’re absolutely right there. Basically if you’re building a brand, you have to do it in the white hat kind of the best possible way. But equally, a lot of the things that we thought were white hat five years ago, Google turned around and said, “If you do another guest blog post or you do another,” whatever it is, with these techniques … Yeah, I mean, we’ve all worked on brands or we’ve worked with agencies where we’ve seen them do things where we kind of go, “That might backfire.” And this isn’t so long ago. This is some big brand agencies that I’ve seen do things where I’ve really kind of sat back and went, “Are they actually still doing it like that?”

Actually the UK is pretty good. We don’t do as much dodgy stuff. It’s when you see the works from some other countries where they still are-

Dixon Jones

The Polish are very good at it.

Gerry White

Are they is the question.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, the Polish are great.

Gerry White

Well, I’ve had conversations with other people from let’s just say Australia and America where they’re having, they’re talking about how much they pay per link, how much they pay, what is the price per link. And it was a bit of a surprise to me kind of going, “Oh, you’re still talking like that? Okay.”

Max Brockbank

Yeah. I had the head of a big London agency tell me once that there wasn’t a single black hat technique which at one point was a white hat technique or which wasn’t white hat technique. It’s just that you get a technique that works. It screws the algorithm. Google gets panicky and then bans it. It’s vital for Google that they are seen to be the best place to get the best search results.

Gerry White

We’ve all seen. We’ve all seen some black hat techniques which were true black hat techniques, like the old 404 page plugins and things like that which would turn your 404 pages into a list of links if you happened to be googled. I liked that one. That was great.

Max Brockbank

Oh yeah, working for a casino site a long time ago. Before casino paid advertising was legal or under Google’s terms, the number of SEO tricks which involved JavaScript so that when Google saw the page it was for a terrestrial casino but anybody else saw an online casino. And I used to spend most of my time reporting these sites to Google. And they’d go down for a couple of days and then they’d be back again with the same trick. The casino side, gaming side is the wild west of SEO. There’s lots going on.

Gerry White

The number of times where I found that taking a look at the site as Google will actually reveal something quite different and then talking to somebody within the site and saying to them, “Look, do this is happening,” and nine times out of 10 they don’t know it’s happening. And it’s terrifying when you try to explain to them that their site has been hacked, they just can’t see it.

Max Brockbank

Yeah. We’ve got a current site we’re working on, and they’ve got a prescription injection on their site, and they can’t work out where it’s coming from. So CLS and all of that stuff just on-

Dixon Jones

But it’s a WordPress plugin, isn’t it?

Max Brockbank

Probably, probably.

Dixon Jones

Switch off all the WordPress plugins one by one.

Max Brockbank

Or it could just be bad hosting. It could just be they’re on the wrong version of PHP or whatever, so.

Dixon Jones

It’s true. It’s true. I mean those PBN networks and stuff, honestly the thing that Majestic came out with, with their two tier things, some of those PBNs just stand out a mile when you dive into those because you see a link to a link and then you see this ball of web pages around … of web domains that are just linking to this page that’s linked to this page as they’re linking out. And you can just pull the whole lot up and lasso it and they say, “Right, well, I’ll disavow them.”

Whether that’s going to make a difference or not I don’t know but it’s interesting to be able to do now because that’s the one thing that hasn’t been possible really before, is we can talk about us tier two and tier three links, and you can … If you’re lucky enough to see them all because you’ve seen a story that gets back to your site eventually, that’s great, but it’s very hard to go and have a look at somebody else’s tier two and tier three links because unless you’re going to go and look at the backlinks of every single one one at a time, you’re not going to get to that stage unless you’re doing it through Majestic systems. So it’s nice to have that in there. I’m glad to doing-

Max Brockbank

There were some suppliers out there doing tier six links as a package. And depending on the level that you’re willing to spend with them, you’ll get so many tier ones, so many tier two, so many two three down to tier six and it pretty much-

Dixon Jones

Majestic can be all of them because that’s the rest of their network, isn’t it?

Max Brockbank

Well, exactly. But tier six [crosstalk]

Dixon Jones

The rest is somebody else’s network.

Max Brockbank

Yeah, PBNs, AI generated content, you name it, it’s in there. And obviously somebody’s buying this stuff. Either they’re being conned or it does work to a certain extent.

Dixon Jones

Well, let me ask the different question about tier twos then, the tier threes and the other idea of is there a point at which a link is worth absolutely nothing to Google now?

Gerry White

My feeling is Google’s looking at the link network very differently to how it was five years ago. They’re looking at it in a way that basically that they understand the natural way in which everybody links together. And the reason I say this is there’s so much noisy weird stuff out there that Google had to be disregarding that my feeling is that Google, the way it looks at links and backlinks and brands and everything it’s evolved a lot more in the past three years, particularly in English-speaking countries.

I have a strong belief that in non-English-speaking countries that the backlink system is a little bit more predated but particularly the UK language, sorry, English language, we’re kind of a lot more ahead and you’ve got to do things naturally, you’ve got to do things in the correct way. You can’t spam. You can’t do all those kind of bad techniques quite as much, unless you’re in the kind of the churn or burn industry, in which case you’re talking about the kind of the long tail type stuff which really is very different when you’re kind of working with brands.

Dixon Jones

I mean, do you think then there’s a disadvantage to somebody in Chinese linking through to my website or is there … I mean why should a link come from a page of the same language as the source page, as a target page?

Gerry White

Well, I mean should somebody from China be linking through to your web page? If they’re talking about SEO tools and they’re talking about SEO tools in English, then obviously it should be linking through to Majestic. I’m going to go back to hotel examples. Around the world everybody’s linking through to hotels that are probably in a different language because it’s localized differently. It’s very common for different languages to be linking through to different pages. There are many, many reasons for it. And if the best resource, the best information isn’t in your local language and you want to share something, then there’s no reason not to link through to another language.

I’ve linked through to Spanish web pages on cooking things because of a Spanish YouTube site because it was talking about something and I always thought, “Yep, that’s actually the best way to do something.” It really does depend. There is no reason not to have kind of people linking in different ways. The only downside is you don’t necessarily want to be ranking for some obscure kind of phrase.

Another website that we’ve been working on. Cath Kidston has a huge following in Asia. I’ve never quite understood it. But when I was looking through, they actually rank for a lot of Chinese or oriental, I don’t even know the language exactly, but they rank for a lot of things which when you run through Google Translate actually come out as being the brand or similar brand name. So it is important that we don’t assume the web is a flat single ecosystem thing. It’s kind of layered.

Max Brockbank

I think you also have to remember that English is the lingua Franca, is everybody’s favorite second language. And certainly, if your first language is not English, you probably feel more comfortable going to an English language website than say a native English speaker would feel going to a Korean website or a German or a Czech or a Polish website. It’s far easier as somebody for whom English is a second language to use an English language website.

Dixon Jones

There’s a real post thing here as well about context, isn’t there, because of course context is agnostic. A bow tie is a bow tie is a bow tie, so if it’s talking about bow ties in Chinese and it’s linking through to a page about bow ties in English, then the context remains. So I guess that moving towards topics and entities for Google is a great thing because it is language agnostic in some ways. Amel, did you want to jump in there? Sorry.

Amel Mehenaoui

Just going to add, at the end of the day it’s about relevancy. So for Google, as long as like you’re saying, if a Chinese site is linking to you and you have an English site, as long as it’s relevant and the topic is the same, then it makes sense because maybe they’re just translating it to Chinese, your website to Chinese, and they’re still talking about the same topic at the end, so.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. Okay guys. Well, we’re almost at time. We are really at time again, so these things don’t seem to go on as long as they should really. But I want to say thank you very much. I also want to just before you round off and ask people how they can get in contact with you and things, talk about the next show. David, what’s happening on the next show?

David Bain

Sure. The next show which will be episode 15 is How to Keep SEO Clients Satisfied. That’s going to be happening on Wednesday the 7th of April 5 pm EST. It’s 12 p.m Eastern Standard Time. We’ve got a couple of guests booked for that one so far, Kevin Gibbons from Re:Signal and Gustavo Pelogia from Wolfgang Digital. You can find out more about that and sign up to watch live over at majestic.com/webinars.

Dixon Jones

That’s great. Okay. So guys, before we go, why don’t you just remind people who you are and why they should contact you if you want them to contact you and how they would get it go about contacting you. Max, do you want to go?

Max Brockbank

Yeah. I’m Head of SEO at The Media Image which is a full service agency. We’ve got quite a good SEO team there and we cover all sorts of clients from gaming through to cosmetics through to finance. Happy to help at any time. Just want to chat really. Fine.

Dixon Jones

Gerry.

Gerry White

I’m the SEO Director at Rise at Seven. You can find me all over everywhere from Twitter through to Instagram or through to LinkedIn. I’m not doing TikTok videos yet, but the rest of my colleagues are. So feel free to find them doing that. But yeah, best place Twitter.

Dixon Jones

And Google. We can see that there. That’s great. Yes, cleverly done. Well done. Amel.

Amel Mehenaoui

I’m the Head of SEO at Puffy. You can find me on LinkedIn and on Twitter also.

Dixon Jones

How do you spell Puffy?

Amel Mehenaoui

P-U-F-F-Y.

Dixon Jones

Just so that nobody gets it wrong because you didn’t have a chance to say who you were when you started.

Amel Mehenaoui

True. Yeah.

Dixon Jones

So I feel that you’re a little disadvantaged there. And I’m sorry that you had trouble getting in at the start. But guys, thank you ever so much. I think that when this all goes, we will get cut off just the same as all the guests. So I’m going to say goodbye to you now. Thanks again to David and thanks to Majestic for sponsoring the whole event and see you all next time internet. Bye.

Amel Mehenaoui

Thank you for having us. Bye.

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Comments

  • Oahu Webmasters

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    March 16, 2021 at 5:47 am
    • Philip Aggrey

      Hello. I’m afraid Majestic specialises in backlink intelligence and does not provide advice on SEO related matters.

      March 22, 2021 at 5:03 pm

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